Review: La Grande Illusion

Members of the public, pupils and Common Room were treated to a showing of Jean Renoir’s classic war film La Grande Illusion, along with a scholarly introduction given by Andrew Brown, on Tuesday evening as part of the Memorial Hall Festival.

This cinematic masterpiece was considered timely on its initial release in 1937 and the years have proven it to be timeless. A war film without battles and arguably more interested in how we live in peace time, it appeals to humanity, and to Europeans in particular, to bridge divisions and pursue, in Renoir’s own phrase, la réunion des hommes.

The audience was reminded of the power of cinema to break down barriers. The film voices the ‘mounting pacifist sentiment’ in France in the late 1930s, as the continent stumbled towards a second World War and Renoir’s vision for a common humanity, with distinctions of class, nationality, language and belief first identified then overcome, has made La Grande Illusion one of the all-time greats of world cinema.

Peter Morley-Fletcher
Head of French

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